One day soon, I might grow tired of banging this particular drum, but today one of the author e-mail lists I subscribe to has been buzzing about the secondhand book market and how it "hurts" writers. "Save an author--buy a new book!" is the slogan some of my friends are hoping will catch on.
I've given this subject a lot of thought, and I've concluded that I like the idea that people are buying my books at yard sales and secondhand stores or swiping them from their hairdressers or their mothers-in-law. That's because I'm convinced that the failure of so many authors to make a decent living has nothing at all to do with their royalty-producing sales being undercut by the secondhand market or by people sharing books instead of buying their own copies. The greatest threat to authors is not the secondary book market, but obscurity.
The way I figure it, before people can start clamoring for my books, they must first learn my name. And the fastest, best way for people to learn my name is by seeing it everywhere. That's why I like used book stores. And why I love yard sales. And why I adore libraries. I like knowing my books are often found at those places. No, I don't make royalties off any book that is not purchased new, but I'm sure not going to squawk if you try to find yourself a bargain. I'm just grateful that you're giving me a chance to tell you a good story. I'm hoping you'll learn my name and then teach it to your friends by passing my books around. If you do that, you'll be helping to build my readership. And that'll thrill me because the larger my readership, the more "paying customers" I'm likely to have when my next book comes out.
Any author who lists "selling books" as her immediate goal isn't likely to be a big fan of the secondary book market. But I've set my sights on increased name recognition, so I'm grateful to used-book stores for helping me out. Yes, I'm as interested in making money as every other author out there, and in the long run, I honestly believe I will. Not in spite of the secondary market, but because of it.
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